July 2010

The Answer Man

Thanks for all the great comments and questions. I’m diving right in to answer all the ones I can. 
How I made the transition to the outfield and what’s my favorite part about playing outfield:
I had never played outfield at all until I was with Tampa Bay and they needed me to switch in ’06. I had always played the infield, but I thought, ‘How hard could it be?’ I gave it a shot in spring training and played there all season. The biggest adjustment is you have to do a lot more running, so you have be in better cardiovascular shape than if you’re playing first base. 
My favorite part about playing outfield is you have a lot more interaction with the fans. You can have a lot of fun messing with them, especially on the road. My favorite fans to mess with are – who else? – Dodger fans. 
On whether the loud cheering when I’m up to bat interferes with my concentration:
Late in a game when the crowd’s really into it and you’ve got the adrenaline pumping a little more than usual, you can caught up in all that and get too aggressive at the plate. You have to step out, take a deep breath and just remind yourself to relax. But believe me, you hear the crow. Any guy who says he can block it out completely is lying to you.
Whether I like batting third or fourth in the lineup:
If I had to choose, I’d have to say third because you’re going to get to hit in the first inning. 
On joking about being “sneaky-ripped”:
When I was with Baltimore, Kevin Millar and I would joke about which one of us had the worst body. I played DH and first base, so I was chunkier then. Last off-season, knowing I was coming to San Francisco and the National League, I lost 15, 20 pounds with a personal trainer three times a week and cardio on my own twice a week. And I changed the way I eat. I used to eat all kinds of crap. Now I’m really careful about what I put into my body. So I joke about my sneaky-ripped body mostly to let Kevin Millar over there at MLB Network know I’m no longer as fat as he is. 
What I think of San Francisco weather:
I’m a Texas boy who played for years in Tampa. I’m a warm-weather guy. So to be really honest, the weather here sucks. Day games are gorgeous. You can’t find a better place to play baseball than a day game here. You wish you could play all day games at home. But night games are tough. It’s freezing. But it’s definitely home field advantage for us because a lot of teams come in here and hate it. We get kind of used to it but it’s still pretty chilly out there. 
What my expectations were when I signed with Giants:
I’ve got to be honest. I knew the dimensions of the field here – which means I knew this is where the long ball comes to die. And with the down year I had last year, I didn’t know what to expect. Yet I found myself in the first month of the season swinging for the fences. I’d swing so hard, I’d jam myself up.  So I stopped trying to hit home runs. Sure enough, I started hitting them. I just starting taking a nice, easy swing and letting the pitcher provide the power. It’s amazing that no matter how long you play ball, you still have to keep relearning the same lessons. If you just put the head of the bat out there and let the pitcher supply all the power, you’re going to hit it a long way. I always have high expectations for myself every season, but I never put a number on it. But the truth is I’m a little bit over what I thought I’d be.
Why the Giants seem to have so much energy in the dugout compared to other teams:
I think that happens when you’re winning. When you’re winning, it’s a lot easier for people to have fun. I’ve never been a part of something this fun. I was always in the other dugout with my head down waiting for the nine innings to be over. It also helps that everybody is just so free-spirited here. Brian Wilson’s a rock star out there. Tim Lincecum looks like he plays for the Beatles. There’s a good mix of veteran guys and young guys. I think that’s what you want to have. This staff is awesome, too. I’ve never seen a better staff in my life. 
If I still throw a knuckleball between innings:
I’d do that on the last throw when I was playing the infield. But I’m an outfielder now, and it takes a bit more of a toll on the arm, I so I quit.
What the attitude of the Giants is like:
We show up every day knowing we have a good chance to win.
How I get pumped up before the game:
At around 6:15 before a night game, I put the headphones on to old-school metal rock like Metallica and ride the bike for about 10 minutes. Then I do one lift with each muscle group. Then it’s go out there and see the ball, hit the ball. 
Wow, you people have a lot of questions . . . 
Got to put the headphones on and head for the bike . . . 
 

Leading Off…

What better day to start my blog than after the most exciting game of the season?


I’ve
never been in a playoff game, but I imagine that’s what it feels like.
And I’ve never been in this kind of rivalry. I knew Giants-Dodgers was
big, but I had no idea how big because all you hear back east is
Yankees-Red Sox 24/7 on ESPN.  It is definitely intense – I think the
fans are even more into than the players, to be honest. You had 50,000
fans yelling against us last night. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a
louder chorus of boos than when the Dodgers made the third out of the
ninth. It was awesome.
It wasn’t just that we won. It was HOW
we won. We battled back in a way I’m not sure we could have done a
month ago. Now we’ve won 11 of the last 13, and we know exactly why.
Not only has our starting pitching established dominance again (with
Timmy’s struggles last night an aberration), but our offense is so much
better. I don’t think anyone expected us to be doing what we’re doing
now offensively.
Pablo is looking so much more comfortable at
the plate since the break. Torres is the sparkplug. I can’t say enough
about what he’s done – a huge hit again last night. He brings energy
into the dugout and clubhouse. (And he’s a sweet guy. He probably says
hi me nine times a day.) 
Posey – what can you say about this
guy? He’s smart, he makes adjustments, and he’s levelheaded. He’s never
going to be a big ego, a guy with the fist pumping and pointing. He’s
already got a veteran’s mentality with his approach at the plate and
catching behind the plate.

Sanchez is great little No. 2 hitter who really changes the dynamic of the lineup.


And
I’m feeling good at the plate. I know people are making a big deal
about the year I’m having but I’ve had good years in the past. I just
had them in Baltimore and Tampa Bay and nobody cared. 

It
was tough not being the lineup last night. It’s probably harder to
watch a game like that than to play in it. Bochy figured if he was
going to give me a day off, it made sense to do it when Kershaw was
pitching. He’s so tough against left-handers. I knew Bochy was likely
to call on me as a pinch-hitter at some point, so after about four
innings I was getting loose on a stationary bike in the clubhouse and
so watched part of game on TV.
But I was in the dugout when
Kershaw hit Aaron Rowand. It was a weird thing to hit him when they
were up by only one run. That got us fired up a little bit. That got us
going. I know fans sometimes have questions about these unwritten
rules, like when it’s bad form for a pitcher to throw at a hitter, or
when a hitter is justified in going after the pitcher. When Kemp took a
few steps toward Timmy, that made no sense because obviously Tim was
struggling and wasn’t trying to hit him. We were all a little jumpy
right there, waiting to see what was going to happen. And Bautista
definitely wasn’t trying to hit Russell Martin. But by then, though,
the Dodgers are all fired up because we’re making a comeback.

So
then Kershaw hits Rowand. We’re getting a little hot in the dugout, but
Rowand just walks to first because it was a “good” hit-by-pitch.
Kershaw hit him in the right place. He wasn’t going for his head. He
hit him in the leg. Now, I imagine, it’s all over and done with. They
got their retaliation shot in, and that’s it.

The
thing that’s so important about this game is that it was a real team
win. You had Rowand dropping a sacrifice bunt. Burrell with the big fly
to left (that Paul dropped). Torres with his two-run double. Pablo with
his double down the line. Posey with an RBI single. The relievers were
great, with Affeldt closing it out.

In
the clubhouse afterward, everyone was just telling everyone else what a
great job they did. It was just a big moral victory, coming back like
that with their best guy on the mound. I was thinking about how some
teams might have slipped into a funk after having a game stolen from
them the way we did over the weekend. But we didn’t let it affect us.
Now we’re on the verge of sweeping the Dodgers. Once you have two wins,
you don’t want just to win the series. You want the sweep.

I
thought last night about what Bengie said to us on the bus when he
found out he had been traded and was saying goodbye: “You guys have
something special.” 

After playing on such awful teams for most of my career, I can’t tell you how happy I am to playing for San Francisco. 
Hope you enjoy the blog. Not sure how often I’ll post. But send me your questions. Happy to answer them if I can.

See you next time